The carbonfibre structures of the forthcoming range of BMW i cars are mainly viable due to the high price of batteries, according to the company’s sales and marketing chief, Ian Robertson.
“A carbon body structure is 50-60 per cent lighter than a conventional body, and batteries are heavy,” he said. “So suddenly you have a good business case. The smaller battery pack required by a lighter car offsets the cost of the carbonfibre body.”
BMW has invested “several hundred million dollars” in US carbonfibre manufacturer SGL as a partner for the i project.
Robertson also believes that the process of building the first i cars — the i3 luxury hatchback and i8 super sports car — could “revolutionise” the entire car manufacturing methodology.
“It could change the way the car is built and sold,” he said, explaining that in part this was because i car manufacture could become more localised, reducing shipping costs. The cars could then be marketed through BMW’s innovative DriveNow car-sharing scheme operating in major cities.